DLF hosted a series of trade events on their Grass Partner Farms to present their research-based approach to bring the next generation of forage solutions to Irish farms.
Guests who attended the events saw the results of bringing grazing research to the farm gate and what this means in a grass-based system.
They also learnt about DLF’s NxGen Tetraploids, changing grass traditions and the significance of the grazing utilisation trait to the PPI index and the value of lower residual as verified by a 665-cow research team.
Teagasc’s Pasture Profit Index (PPI), the Oscars of the seed businesses, is released every year following trials of the top grass seed varieties and measures variables such as grass yields across the year, digestibility and persistence.
But in 2021, for the first time ever, the index also includes the grazing utilisation trait. The grazing results are evidence of how the cow grazes and the palatability of the grass.
Maximum grass utilisation can be achieved by selecting the right varieties and mixtures.
While all of the other traits measured in the PPI play a role in the success of a grass-based system, these PPI scores are derived from data collected from a simulated grazing system and don’t measure how appealing the variety is to grazing cattle.
Only three of the 34 varieties assessed achieved five stars. Two of them, Xenon and Aspect, were produced by Waterford-based DLF – Ireland’s only non-state research facility – and part of the Arvum Group.
Without knowing the potential utilisation of a variety, farmers buying seed for grazing paddocks have been at a disadvantage.
“The grazing utilisation trait is a very positive addition to the pasture profit index because it provides farmers with information that was previously unavailable from independent data,” said Paul Flanagan, general manager at DLF Ireland.
“For years we have been asked about grass palatability and how mixtures and varieties will graze out and while we already knew that Tetraploid varieties graze better than diploids, the new trait on the pasture profit index confirms this.
“The traditional grass mix is a blend of diploid and tetraploid with the diploid historically included for density and persistence while traditional tetraploid varieties tended to be very open and upright.”
“Over the last decades of breeding we have tried to bring the positive attributes of a diploid into our tetraploid breeding program,” Flanagan continued.
“We refer to this type of variety as NxGen tetraploids, combining the density and persistence of diploids with the quality and graze out of Tetraploids.
“Xenon was the first achievement from that work and has been my personal favourite variety for some time for that reason. It is one of only three varieties that achieved five stars on the new grazing utilisation trait.”
Nashota is the second NxGen variety that DLF has brought to the Irish market and is up at the top of the PPI ranking. A grazing score is currently not available for it.
According to DLF, Nashota is the perfect complement to Xenon in a grazing mix, providing early spring growth and a high-quality yield.
DLF varieties Nashota and Xenon are combined with Aspect to make DLF’s 4N Grazer mixture, an exciting all-tetraploid mixture with excellent ground cover but, most importantly, exceptional grazing qualities.
DLF Ireland has invested in a lab to farm research programme to deliver forage solutions to Irish farmers.
The company’s Grass Partner Farm Programme allows DLF to bridge the gap between controlled plots and the cut and thrust of a working farm, with its challenges of management, livestock and weather.
Growing conditions across Ireland can be quite variable and for this reason, DLF has partnered with several farmers to test DLF varieties at field and farm-scale on their Grass Partner Farms in Waterford, Kerry, Offaly, and Meath.
The value of the data collected from the Grass Partner Farms will reach a new level in 2021 with the establishment of variety grazing trials on these farms to provide an accurate assessment of these varieties’ actual on-farm performance.
Based on the grazing trials carried out by Teagasc at Moorepark, DLF partner farm grazing trials provide a detailed on-farm evaluation of up-and-coming DLF varieties sown in plots under real-life grazing conditions.
DLF has sown 21 replicated plots on each of the four farms consisting of 11 varieties in the very early stages of development and 10 of the most commonly sown varieties currently on the market. These plots are grazed as part of the rotation on each farm.
“The overall aim of these trials is to see how all of the varieties, old and new, perform in a real-life grazing rotation with all of the variables that climate, management and livestock can bring,” said Dr. Thomas Moloney.
“We are looking at the main metrics around grazing performance, so things like growth rate, graze-out, and grass utilisation will be measured over two years.
“We are collecting a massive amount of data on each variety from across the country, and this data combined with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) cutting results and the PPI will give us a really clear picture of the strengths of all of the varieties.
“This will ultimately give farmers real confidence in knowing the varieties they get from DLF have been thoroughly tested and can perform in Irish conditions.”
The grazing utilisation trait is based on the principle that cows will graze their favourite varieties down to a lower residual height, thus utilising more grass grown.
Increasing the number of t/DM (dry matter) grown increases profitability, but only if the animal actually eats the grass. This is the grazing utilisation score, an extremely useful addition to the PPI Index and will be vital in assisting Irish farmers to choose the highest quality grass varieties for their farm.
DLF’s plant breeders and scientists are focused on developing new grass varieties with the highest yield and quality traits and increasing the nutrient-use efficiency and season-long production of new varieties at an international level.
With the support of a global research programme, DLF Ireland continues to invest in Irish grassland with a complete lab to farm research programme, delivering Forage First solutions to Irish farmers.
New varieties bred specifically to stand up to the Irish climate and excel in Irish grass-based farming systems have been developed at DLF’s 65ac trial site in Faithlegg, Co. Waterford, which contains over 2,500 plots evaluating the latest varieties of perennial ryegrass, festulolium, red and white clover, lucerne and maise.
DLF is bringing grazing research to the farm gate with forage solutions specific to Irish farming systems through its DLF Grass Partner Programme to bring the Next Generation of Forage First solutions to Irish farms.
If you would like more information on the results of the Grass Partner Programme, please get in touch with Dr. Thomas Moloney on 087 396 1265.